"Castle on the Rise" Book Discussion and Fresh Blueberry and Pear Scones Recipe
France, modern day: Laine Forrester has arrived to see her best friend married at a castle in France. What should be a delightful day is shadowed by her secret tragedy, a divorce in the wake of her long-time dream of adopting a child, and her best friend’s secret, which brings both women back to Ireland, the homeland of her best friend’s new husband, where his estranged father owns an old pub filled with history.
Ireland, 1915: Lady Isolde—Issy—has a brother named Rory who has just joined the ICA, the Irish Citizen Army against the English to keep their Catholic freedoms and be free from English rule. Issy’s best friend, Honor, was attacked and impregnated by one of the Englishmen, and her brother is determined to get revenge. Meanwhile, the man she loves, Sean, has gone to a church on the front lines as a pastor and aid to the wounded. Issy is determined to leave behind her useless title and be part of the action from behind the lens of her camera, to show the world what it’s missing, and the real truths about suffering. But she becomes more closely involved in danger with each chapter.
1790s Ireland: Maeve lived a life of wealth and ease at Ashford Manor, until tragedy struck and she lost her mother and brother. Now it is nearly Christmas, and a thief tried to steal the family’s prized stallion. She sets off in the woods to capture the man, who is terribly wounded and nearly dead. Taking pity, she brings him back to the castle to keep him from freezing to death before he can be tried, and while tending to his wounds, he reveals that things are not as they seem at the castle, and that their head groom is more a thief than he. Puzzled, Maeve confronts him, and discovers that the stranger, from an opposing clan no less, speaks the truth. She cannot help but wonder, what other truths does this stranger know?
As each character digs into the past of the families that surround them, unveils a fascinating historic web of loyalty, duty, faith, and freedom, and the power of a woman, especially in times of revolution. Castle on the Rise
Perfect for fans of:
- Ireland/ all things Irish
- St. Patrick's Day
- women's empowerment
- female pioneers of achievement
- British romantic dramas
- Historical fiction
- Alternating timelines/ time periods
“Words could change everything.” How did the words cancer, divorce, adoption, marriage, diversion, and sold change the lives of Ellie and Laine?
How could society parlors justify shunning Honor because of what happened to her, when it clearly wasn’t her fault? How have society’s rules changed since her time, over 100 years ago?
What is a snug, and why were there separate ones for men and for women in the pub? Who didn’t approve of Laine being in the men’s snug?
How did owning a camera and having a radical for a brother prompt Issy to be different from typical society girls or her parents?
What disaster for the Byrne family did their stable master have planned, according to Eoin? Why?
In what ways did Eoin treat Maeve as an equal, something to which she was unaccustomed?
What is “Little Christmas” and how did Eoin and Maeve celebrate it? Why didn’t her father join her, as he used to?
How did Maeve show great mercy and trust toward Eoin, “even when six months past, a man who owned a mark identical” to his filled her brother with musket shot? Do you think it was easy for her to do, or simple?
Who was “The O'Byrne” and what did Eoin do to him?
How did Mr. O’Brien of the violin shop know Jack Foley? Why hadn’t Jack told Cormac or anyone?
How did Laine end up caring for Cassie? Why did she feel Bethany was also her responsibility?
How did a horrible tragedy lead Eoin to refuse to ever drink?
Who was your favorite couple in this novel and why?
Have you ever visited any castle ruins? Which ones would you choose if you could choose any?
Maeve’s family usually celebrated Christmas at Ashford Manor with spiced cider, other delicacies, and “scones with sweet fraochàn berries and cream.” These are a type of European blueberry, also called bilberries, wimberries, or whortleberries. If you can access these to make the scones, they would be delicious, I’m sure.
Pears were mentioned not only as the gift that Maeve’s family would bestow to each of their landholders at Christmas, but even a treat they themselves enjoyed poached in red wine sauce. She also gave some to Eoin as part of his dinner before she asked him to his story of his arrival and purpose at the castle.
Pears were also enjoyed by Cassie, Lane, and Cormac as a late-night snack after Cassie woke her mother at 2 a.m. with nightmares.
To make an easily accessible version of this recipe, I’ve created a simple one for Fresh Blueberry and Pear Scones with Sweet Whipped Cream, though if you have fresh bilberries, they could easily be substituted.
Fresh Blueberry Scones with Whipped Cream
For the scones:
- 2 cups, plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus 1/2-1 cup more for rolling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cold
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling, if desired
- 2/3 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream, (not skim milk)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh blueberries, (or frozen, defrosted and drained)
- 1 Bartlett pears, peeled and diced small
For the sweet whipped cream:
- 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Tips for a Dairy-free/Vegan Version of the Recipe:
For dairy-free alternatives in this recipe, use:
- shortening in place of the butter,
- coconut milk in place of the milk,
- canned cream of coconut for the heavy whipping cream (for the whipped cream also),
- and, in place of the egg, add 1 tsp of baking soda with 1 tbsp of vinegar for leavening.
- Make sure all ingredients are measured before you take the butter out of the fridge to begin the first step. You need the butter to be as cold as possible. Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, and 2/3 cup sugar in a bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl with the blueberries and pears, mix a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of flour. Preheat your oven to 400° F.
- Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise, then cut across 8-10 times into small tabs. Drop the sliced butter into the bowl of flour and cut together using a pastry cutter or fork, or your hands, if you don’t mind getting messy. (A food processor pulsed 6-8 times would also work, but make sure each pulse is short). Cut until the butter is pea-sized or smaller.
- Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the milk and vanilla extract. Stir together with a spoon or spatula (not a mixer) until all of it is mixed together, about two minutes. Add the egg next, combine completely, and then add the blueberries and diced pears. Fold these in gently with clean hands or a rubber spatula to combine. Drop dough onto a floured counter (using at minimum half a cup of flour; I used a whole cup). Cut dough out into two large balls. Roll out each one to about a half inch thick (about the height of your pinky nail), and using a butter knife, cut in half, then into quarters, then into eighths. If any of them are making an oddly shaped triangle, you can remold them using the crook of your hand between the thumb and pointer finger, or just roll them into a ball, flatten, and recut.
- Place on a parchment-lined or butter-greased baking sheet, sprinkle with extra sugar if desired, and bake for 13-15 minutes. Makes about thirty small scones or fourteen to fifteen medium-sized scones.
- To make the whipped cream, whip the cream and powdered sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on low for one minute, then medium-high for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cream is light and fluffy. Spoon onto cooled scones.
Fresh Blueberry Scones with Whipped Cream
Rate the Recipe
The prequel to this book is The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron. The third book in this trilogy will be the upcoming The Painted Castle (Lost Castle #3). Other books by this author include The Butterfly and the Violin (Hidden Masterpiece #1), The Ringmaster's Wife, The Illusionist's Apprentice, and more.
Authors mentioned within this book include James Joyce, Shakespeare,
Similar historical romantic Christian British dramas to read are The Governess of Penwythe Hall (Cornwall #1) by Sarah E. Ladd, Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin, and A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz.
For more Irish dramatic or historical literature, try The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale by Sydney Owenson Morgan, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, A River in the Trees by Jacqueline O’Mahony, orThe Secret of the Irish Castle (Deverill Chronicles #3) by Santa Montefiore.
For powerful female protagonists who are activists in an era before women had our modern rights, read A Desperate Hope (Empire State #3) by Elizabeth Camden, or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, or Love and Ruin by Paula McLain.
For another story paralleling the lives of three women, one who’s trying to find her place above a bookstore in Cornwall, England, after her abusive fiance has passed away, read The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel.
“I believe that a man’s life—every man’s life—is worth something, no matter his name or his religion.”
“I wanted to feel it. To really live it. Because I might need to remember those very good things in the days ahead.”
“...to see the good that could come of something God was crafting behind the scenes, one had to keep an eye out for it.”
“I don’t imagine what my life was supposed to be like. Now, I accept it. I just want to live each day as it comes.”
“Maybe she didn’t need to have everything figured out to say yes to something new—bravery could be as simple as a yes when she was at her most afraid.”
“I will no longer live in sorrow’s shadow. Nor in suspicion either.”
“I need to know if God sees us in the middle of our worst moments.”
“Funny thing about Dublin—the rain always stops, just not in the moment we may want it to. So like God. His plan, His timin’.”
“These people are patient in death, an’ they do not forget.”
“When I should’ve died, instead ye were there fightin’ for me. I can’ forget no matter how I try.”
“...the hardest day turned out to be what would heal both of us, years down the road, before we even knew we’d need it...We’ll handle tomorrow, tomorrow.”
© 2019 Amanda Leitch